Armi Kuusela

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Armi Kuusela
Beauty pageant titleholder
Armi Kuusela-1.jpg
Born Armi Kuusela Hilario
(1934-08-20) 20 August 1934 (age 82)
Muhos, Finland
Height 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight 49.0 kg (108.0 lb)
Title(s) Suomen Neito 1952
Miss Universe 1952
Miss Universe 1952

Armi Helena Kuusela (born 20 August 1934 in Muhos) is a Finnish-born U.S resident beauty queen. In 1952 she won the national beauty contest Suomen Neito and was presented with a trip to the USA to participate in the first-ever Miss Universe pageant, becoming its first titleholder in history.

Early life[edit]

Kuusela's parents, Aarne Aleksander Kuusela (12 September 1902, Uusikaupunki - 7 December 1969, Muhos) and Martta Elisabeth Kyrö (3 April 1903, Kestilä - 21 November 1963, Muhos) met each other in Ontario, Canada and later married there. Their first baby was born in Canada. After several years in Canada, they returned to Finland to settle in Muhos. Martta gave birth to five girls and one boy; one of the girls died when only two-and-a-half years old. Kuusela was born on August 20, 1934, she was the fourth oldest of the children.

She went to middle school in Muhos, and in 1951 she started attending the women's college in Porvoo. Kuusela liked swimming, skiing, gymnastics and after successfully completing her Abitur, she intended to apply to the University of Helsinki Gymnastics Institute.

Miss Universe[edit]

When Kuusela won Finland's national pageant, Suomen Neito, on May 24, 1952, she was awarded a box of chocolates, a gold bangle, and a return ticket sponsored by Pan American Airways to the United States.

On June 17, Kuusela took a Pan Am flight from Helsinki to Long Beach, California where she took part on the first Miss Universe contest.

Thirty contestants participated in the first Miss Universe pageant in 1952. The pageant was held on June 28, 1952, and Kuusela, as Suomen Neito, captured the crown. At her crowning she was only 17 years old. At the time she weighed 49 kg (108 lb), and her height was 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in).

Immediately after her winning there was a Finnish movie made of her, called Maailman kaunein tyttö (World's most beautiful girl) where she played herself, and Tauno Palo acted Jack Coleman (opposite role). It was directed by Veikko Itkonen, with writing credits going to Mika Waltari.

Life after Miss Universe[edit]

Marriage and life in the Philippines[edit]

On February 22, 1953, Kuusela took a journey round the world, during which time she met Filipino businessman Virgilio Hilario. Less than a year after being crowned, Kuusela chose to give up her Miss Universe crown on May 4, 1953 to marry Hilario in Tokyo after a whirlwind courtship.

They had met in March at a dance in Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines, when Kuusela as Miss Universe had gone to the Islands for the International Trade Exposition. They honeymooned in the Hawaiian Islands, toured the United States and then Europe,[1] before settling in Manila, in the Philippines where they had five children:[2]

  • Arne Hilario, married with 3 children, lives in Chile
  • Anna-Lisa De Gari, married with 2 children, lives in Spain
  • Jussi Hilario, married, lives in Canada
  • Eva-Maria Hess, married with 2 children, lives in United States
  • Mikko Hilario, lives in the Philippines

Kuusela briefly managed several apartments in Metro Manila, one of them being the (now-demolished) Gilarmi Apartments and Suites in Makati, where she and Hilario lived before moving to the exclusive community of Forbes Park. Their house was on a road informally known as "Millionaire Street". She was also in one film in the Philippines around this time.

The daughter of Eva-Maria Hess, seems to be following in Armi's footsteps. Natalia Marie Hess (born 19 December 1991 in Manila) is a model and has her own website.

Later life[edit]

Hilario died of a heart attack on September 7, 1975, and Kuusela remarried to American diplomat Albert Williams on June 8, 1978. The couple moved to Barcelona, then to Izmir, Turkey, before settling in La Jolla, a community in San Diego, California. As of 2011, she and her husband were still living there.

In 2012 Armi was awarded the Order of the White Rose of Finland[3]

Armi visited her native town of Muhos in August 2014. Her visit was an official meeting with the city municipal manager[4]

Kuusela is still active in her community, participating in charities and involved in cancer research at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.


  1. ^ "Miss Universe Married To Filipino With Black Eye". The Victoria Advocate. Victoria, Texas. 5 May 1953. p. 8, col. 3-4. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "Miss Universe 1952 - Armi Kuusela". Archived from the original on September 15, 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  3. ^ ”IS vieraili upean Armi Kuuselan, 78, kotona Kaliforniassa.” Ilta-Sanomat 18.12.2012.
  4. ^ Armi Kuusela kirjoitti kotiin., viitattu 17.4.2014

External links[edit]